Wine and Culture: The Black Rooster of Chianti


In a small wine-region in the heart of Chianti one of the most famous and exquisite red wines in the world, Chianti Classico Wine, is produced.

There are not many wine enthusiasts who have never tasted a Chianti Classico or Chianti Classico Riserva.

Chianti Classico is a DOCG wine, is produced in the Chianti Classico subregion, consists of a minimum of 80% Sangiovese grape, and the alcohol level is at least 12 percent.

But what’s the story behind the unmistakable pink label with the black rooster seal on all Chianti Classico bottles?

I’ll tell you …

The legend of the Chianti Black Rooster dates back to Mediaeval times, back to the period of intermittent wars between Florence and Siena over the rights of the Chianti region. In the 13th century, the two cities decided to cease their feuding for Chianti by holding a horse race between two knights. One knight was to depart from Florence and one from Siena at the crow of a rooster, and the point at which they would meet would determine the boundary line between the two cities.

The citizens of Siena chose a white rooster and fed it well as they thought it would crow stronger. At the same time, the Florentines selected a black rooster and chose to starve it.

On the day of the race, the two roosters were supposed to crow at sunrise, but the poor hungry black rooster of Florence began to crow much sooner, while the white rooster still slept with a full stomach.

The Florentine knight left immediately after the rooster’s early sign, and he gained a considerable advantage. Meanwhile, the Siennese knight didn’t manage to ride very far, as the two met only 12 km from the walls of Siena, meaning the Florentine Republic could annex all of Chianti.

Since then, the Black Rooster has been the symbol of Chianti.

‘Il Gallo Nero’ – the Black Rooster – became first the symbol of the ‘Lega del Chianti’ (the Chianti League) in the 14th century.

It has also been of the symbol of the Chianti Classico Consortium since its establishment in 1987.

The territory of Chianti was first established by Cosimo III de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, in 1716, and he named Radda, Gaiole and Castellina as the Chianti Region.

The original area designated by the Grand Duke is today considered the heart of the modern Chianti Classico subregion.

Nowadays, the Chianti Classico subregion covers a territory of approximately 260 km2 between the city of Siena and Florence. Four communes – Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti – are entirely within the boundaries of the Classico area, and parts of Barberino Val d’Elsa, San Casciano in Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa in the province of Florence as well as Castelnuovo Berardenga and Poggibonsi in the province of Siena are included in the boundaries of the Chianti Classico zone.

As to whether the story of the Black Rooster is true or not, we do not know. But the starving ‘Gallo Nero’ is nevertheless remembered on every bottle of Chianti Classico.


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